Rwanda: Senators Call for New Strategies to Tackle Youth Unemployment

The unemployment rate among Rwandan youth is increasing, senators have said, pointing out that even a large percentage of start-ups created by the youth collapse before their third anniversary.

Citing "different studies", senators observed on Tuesday that the trend calls for fresh strategies to create sustainable jobs for the youth.

Some of the observations are contained in the report of the Senatorial Committee on Social Affairs and Human Rights.

The report is a culmination of the committee's assessment of the government activities designed to promote employment.

The unemployment among the youth was 22.4 per cent, higher than the 17.9 per cent of the overall unemployment rate in the country, Senator Adrie Umuhire said, citing a 2020 survey by the National Institute of Statistics of Rwanda (NISR).

Umuhire, who is also the Committee Chairperson, said that the percentage of Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) graduates who got jobs were 67.7 per cent in 2016.

This percentage, she said, had dropped to 64.9 and 59.6 per cent 2018 and 2019 respectively.

The government targets to create 1.5 million jobs between 2017 and 2024.

Umuhire said there was some progress even as some challenges persist.

In the last four years, over 778,136 jobs - including 658,630 for the youth, she noted.

Senator Pelagie Uwera said the country needed sustainable jobs for the youth.

"Sometimes jobs that are created are in road, school and terrace construction," she said, "Once the project is completed, people become jobless again."

In order to create sustainable jobs, the senator recommended that government institutions improve their coordination to address the challenges of the mismatch between the skills and job market.

The senators also want more academic internships for students and improved communication of available job opportunities for the youth.

TVET graduates used to access start-up loan facilities, which Uwera said were frozen in 2020 and replaced by a leasing programme.

Ministerial guidelines require that for one to have access demand this lease facility, they must have a business that has been fully active for at least one year.

Uwera said this was an obstacle to young people who want to start a new business.

Challenges accessing startup capital

On access to finance, she said that majority of young people are financially excluded due to a combination of factors including high interest rates among others.

To access a bank loan for investment, Uwera said that banks request the youth to provide at least 30 per cent of the total investment they need for a project.

While Business Development Fund (BDF) may guarantee the loan up to a tune of 75 per cent, some young people fail to raise the remaining 25 per cent.

The loan guarantees that BDF has provided to the youth, so far, are still low.

Uwera disclosed that you led projects have only benefited Rwf16.1 billion - which is 21.3 per cent of Rwf75.7 billion total guarantee for all beneficiaries.

The lack of business management skills among some youth is also a daunting challenge for many young people.

Established businesses are reluctant to take on TVET students to gain practical skills because the money allocated to the internship programme is not sufficient to repay machines in case of damage.

In an effort to address this issue that impedes the students' acquisition of relevant hands-on skills, the Senate requested the government to expedite the establishment of the guidelines on workplace learning.

entirenganya@newtimesrwanda.com

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